Posts tagged "california"
Los Angeles Times:
"New California law aims to cultivate urban agriculture
A new law promoting community gardens and small farms lets municipalities lower property taxes on plots of 3 acres or less if owners dedicate them to growing food for at least 5 years.
By Lee Romney
SAN FRANCISCO — Sandwiched between rows of homes in the fog-kissed Mission Terrace neighborhood, Little City Gardens provides salad greens and fresh-cut flowers to local restaurants from what was once a weedy vacant lot.

Like many of California’s urban agriculture practitioners, however, Caitlyn Galloway is plagued by a key uncertainty: She is on a month-to-month lease with a landlord who must recoup the lot’s steep property taxes and may soon sell or develop.
Now, California cities and counties eager to encourage community gardens and small-scale farms in urban pockets have a novel tool at their disposal that could help solve Galloway’s problem. Legislation recently signed by Gov.Jerry Brown will allow municipalities to lower the assessed value — and property taxes — on plots of three acres or less if owners pledge to dedicate them to growing food for at least five years.
"As urban farmers one of the biggest obstacles we’ve faced is land tenure," said Galloway, 32. "It’s a huge step for urban agriculture."
Photo: (Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times:

"New California law aims to cultivate urban agriculture

A new law promoting community gardens and small farms lets municipalities lower property taxes on plots of 3 acres or less if owners dedicate them to growing food for at least 5 years.

By Lee Romney

SAN FRANCISCO — Sandwiched between rows of homes in the fog-kissed Mission Terrace neighborhood, Little City Gardens provides salad greens and fresh-cut flowers to local restaurants from what was once a weedy vacant lot.

Like many of California’s urban agriculture practitioners, however, Caitlyn Galloway is plagued by a key uncertainty: She is on a month-to-month lease with a landlord who must recoup the lot’s steep property taxes and may soon sell or develop.

Now, California cities and counties eager to encourage community gardens and small-scale farms in urban pockets have a novel tool at their disposal that could help solve Galloway’s problem. Legislation recently signed by Gov.Jerry Brown will allow municipalities to lower the assessed value — and property taxes — on plots of three acres or less if owners pledge to dedicate them to growing food for at least five years.

"As urban farmers one of the biggest obstacles we’ve faced is land tenure," said Galloway, 32. "It’s a huge step for urban agriculture."

Photo: (Lee Romney, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles Times:
“Big changes are coming to conventional office buildings
Acres of unused space in conventional office buildings may be transformed into hotel rooms, classrooms, theaters or retail uses, architects and urban planners say.
By Roger Vincent. Sept 4, 2013
With the lines between our work lives and personal time blurring as new technology unchains us from our desks, the notion of what a desirable office looks like is also changing.

Corporate America is moving away from conventional layouts where an employee’s status is measured by the amount of space he occupies. Instead, more compact, playful designs are coming into favor.
People can do their jobs almost anywhere with their cellphones and laptops, the reasoning goes, so let’s make the office a place where people are stimulated by close interaction at their workstations and chance meetings in inviting public spaces such as lounges and coffee bars.
This gradual but pervasive shift in workplace culture that packs more employees into less room has been a blow to conventional office buildings in downtown Los Angeles and other financial centers. Acres of space lie vacant even though the economy is improving and many firms are adding workers.”
 
Photo: Katie Falkenberg, Los Angeles Times / August 27, 2013

Los Angeles Times:

Big changes are coming to conventional office buildings

Acres of unused space in conventional office buildings may be transformed into hotel rooms, classrooms, theaters or retail uses, architects and urban planners say.

By Roger Vincent. Sept 4, 2013

With the lines between our work lives and personal time blurring as new technology unchains us from our desks, the notion of what a desirable office looks like is also changing.

Corporate America is moving away from conventional layouts where an employee’s status is measured by the amount of space he occupies. Instead, more compact, playful designs are coming into favor.

People can do their jobs almost anywhere with their cellphones and laptops, the reasoning goes, so let’s make the office a place where people are stimulated by close interaction at their workstations and chance meetings in inviting public spaces such as lounges and coffee bars.

This gradual but pervasive shift in workplace culture that packs more employees into less room has been a blow to conventional office buildings in downtown Los Angeles and other financial centers. Acres of space lie vacant even though the economy is improving and many firms are adding workers.”

 

Photo: Katie Falkenberg, Los Angeles Times / August 27, 2013

The Atlantic Cities:
“Arid Southwest Cities’ Plea: Lose the Lawn
Ian Lovett. Aug 11, 2013
LOS ANGELES — This is how officials here feel about grass these days: since 2009, the city has paid $1.4 million to homeowners willing to rip out their front lawns and plant less thirsty landscaping.
At least the lawns are still legal here. Grass front yards are banned at new developments in Las Vegas, where even the grass medians on the Strip have been replaced with synthetic turf.
In Austin, Tex., lawns are allowed; watering them, however, is not — at least not before sunset. Police units cruise through middle-class neighborhoods hunting for sprinklers running in daylight and issuing $475 fines to their owners.
Worried about dwindling water supplies, communities across the drought-stricken Southwest have begun waging war on a symbol of suburban living: the lush, green grass of front lawns.”
Photo: Mitch and Leslie Aiken in their drought-tolerant yard in Pasadena, Calif. Some Southwestern cities have begun paying residents to rip up their lawns in favor of plants that require less water. 

The Atlantic Cities:

Arid Southwest Cities’ Plea: Lose the Lawn

Ian Lovett. Aug 11, 2013

LOS ANGELES — This is how officials here feel about grass these days: since 2009, the city has paid $1.4 million to homeowners willing to rip out their front lawns and plant less thirsty landscaping.

At least the lawns are still legal here. Grass front yards are banned at new developments in Las Vegas, where even the grass medians on the Strip have been replaced with synthetic turf.

In Austin, Tex., lawns are allowed; watering them, however, is not — at least not before sunset. Police units cruise through middle-class neighborhoods hunting for sprinklers running in daylight and issuing $475 fines to their owners.

Worried about dwindling water supplies, communities across the drought-stricken Southwest have begun waging war on a symbol of suburban living: the lush, green grass of front lawns.”

Photo: Mitch and Leslie Aiken in their drought-tolerant yard in Pasadena, Calif. Some Southwestern cities have begun paying residents to rip up their lawns in favor of plants that require less water. 

 SF Examiner:
"S.F.’s parklets program learns from failure, moves ahead
Andrea Koskey. Aug 4, 2012
On Haight Street, two new parking spaces where a parklet was recently removed highlight the growing pains of a popular open-space program and what The City can learn from the failure.
In July, a parklet outside of Martin Macks bar in the Upper Haight was the first to be removed after nearly a year of controversy, and Planning Department officials running the program have learned from this incident and others that have cropped up around The City.
San Francisco pioneered parklets, starting in 2009 when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom asked the Department of Public Works, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Planning Department to come up with a “temporary urbanism program.” The concept the agencies came up with allows businesses, nonprofits and property owners to apply for permits to convert adjacent on-street parking into open spaces that are open and accessible, though also removable.”
Photo: Andrea Koskey

 SF Examiner:

"S.F.’s parklets program learns from failure, moves ahead

Andrea Koskey. Aug 4, 2012

On Haight Street, two new parking spaces where a parklet was recently removed highlight the growing pains of a popular open-space program and what The City can learn from the failure.

In July, a parklet outside of Martin Macks bar in the Upper Haight was the first to be removed after nearly a year of controversy, and Planning Department officials running the program have learned from this incident and others that have cropped up around The City.

San Francisco pioneered parklets, starting in 2009 when then-Mayor Gavin Newsom asked the Department of Public Works, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and the Planning Department to come up with a “temporary urbanism program.” The concept the agencies came up with allows businesses, nonprofits and property owners to apply for permits to convert adjacent on-street parking into open spaces that are open and accessible, though also removable.”

Photo: Andrea Koskey

The New York Times:
“A City Invokes Seizure Laws to Save Homes
By Shaila Dewan. July 29, 2013
The power of eminent domain has traditionally worked against homeowners, who can be forced to sell their property to make way for a new highway or shopping mall. But now the working-class city of Richmond, Calif., hopes to use the same legal tool to help people stay right where they are.
Scarcely touched by the nation’s housing recovery and tired of waiting for federal help, Richmond is about to become the first city in the nation to try eminent domain as a way to stop foreclosures.
The results will be closely watched by both Wall Street banks, which have vigorously opposed the use of eminent domain to buy mortgages and reduce homeowner debt, and a host of cities across the country that are considering emulating Richmond.
The banks have warned that such a move will bring down a hail of lawsuits and all but halt mortgage lending in any city with the temerity to try it.
But local officials, frustrated at the lack of large-scale relief from the Obama administration, relatively free of the influence that Wall Street wields in Washington, and faced with fraying neighborhoods and a depleted middle class, are beginning to shrug off those threats.”
Photo: Robert and Patricia Castillo paid $420,000 for a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home in Richmond, Calif., in 2005. It is now worth $125,000. Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

The New York Times:

A City Invokes Seizure Laws to Save Homes

By Shaila Dewan. July 29, 2013

The power of eminent domain has traditionally worked against homeowners, who can be forced to sell their property to make way for a new highway or shopping mall. But now the working-class city of Richmond, Calif., hopes to use the same legal tool to help people stay right where they are.

Scarcely touched by the nation’s housing recovery and tired of waiting for federal help, Richmond is about to become the first city in the nation to try eminent domain as a way to stop foreclosures.

The results will be closely watched by both Wall Street banks, which have vigorously opposed the use of eminent domain to buy mortgages and reduce homeowner debt, and a host of cities across the country that are considering emulating Richmond.

The banks have warned that such a move will bring down a hail of lawsuits and all but halt mortgage lending in any city with the temerity to try it.

But local officials, frustrated at the lack of large-scale relief from the Obama administration, relatively free of the influence that Wall Street wields in Washington, and faced with fraying neighborhoods and a depleted middle class, are beginning to shrug off those threats.”

Photo: Robert and Patricia Castillo paid $420,000 for a three-bedroom, one-bathroom home in Richmond, Calif., in 2005. It is now worth $125,000. Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Los Angeles Times: 
L.A. River advocates wait for watershed Army Corps study
A nonprofit dedicated to the L.A. River announces plans for a 51-mile greenway. But it’s a decision from Washington that everyone is waiting for.
By Christopher Hawthorne. July 24, 2013
This summer marks a moment of truth for the Los Angeles River.

On Tuesday, the leaders of the nonprofit L.A. River Revitalization Corp. used a riverside press conference at North Atwater Park to trumpet its plan to complete a continuous bike path and greenway along all 51 miles of the river, extending from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach, by 2020.
The group also said it has raised more than $5 million to build a pedestrian, bike and equestrian bridge that would span the river between Atwater Village and Griffith Park.
VIDEO: Kayaking in the Los Angeles River
Yet the scope of those projects is minor compared to proposals being prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which holds ultimate decision-making power over the river. The Corps is putting the finishing touches on a much-anticipated, much-delayed feasibility study focusing on an 11-mile stretch of the river between Union Station and Griffith Park.
The study, expected to be released Aug. 30, will weigh three ambitious plans aimed at restoring the river’s natural ecosystem and improving public access to its banks.”

Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / July 23, 2013

Los Angeles Times: 

L.A. River advocates wait for watershed Army Corps study

A nonprofit dedicated to the L.A. River announces plans for a 51-mile greenway. But it’s a decision from Washington that everyone is waiting for.

By Christopher Hawthorne. July 24, 2013

This summer marks a moment of truth for the Los Angeles River.

On Tuesday, the leaders of the nonprofit L.A. River Revitalization Corp. used a riverside press conference at North Atwater Park to trumpet its plan to complete a continuous bike path and greenway along all 51 miles of the river, extending from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach, by 2020.

The group also said it has raised more than $5 million to build a pedestrian, bike and equestrian bridge that would span the river between Atwater Village and Griffith Park.

VIDEO: Kayaking in the Los Angeles River

Yet the scope of those projects is minor compared to proposals being prepared by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which holds ultimate decision-making power over the river. The Corps is putting the finishing touches on a much-anticipated, much-delayed feasibility study focusing on an 11-mile stretch of the river between Union Station and Griffith Park.

The study, expected to be released Aug. 30, will weigh three ambitious plans aimed at restoring the river’s natural ecosystem and improving public access to its banks.”

Photo: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times / July 23, 2013

Los Angeles Downtown News:
"Is Downtown’s Low-Rise Building Spree Hurting the Community?
Ryan Vaillancourt. July 15, 2013
DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - New housing projects are under construction all across Downtown Los Angeles. From Chinatown, where the 280-unit Jia Apartments are being built, to Eighth Street and Grand Avenue, where San Francisco’s Carmel Partners are erecting a 700-unit complex, hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested.
This activity is giving Downtown boosters reason to cheer: More housing brings more restaurants, bars, entertainment spots and retail.
However, some view the residential surge with caution. Certain architects, urban planners and developers worry that parking lot sites that could accommodate high-rises instead are being filled by five- to seven-story, wood-framed apartment complexes encased in plaster. 
Gone is a chance to create residential density in the part of the city where it isn’t largely opposed by community stakeholders, and where it makes the most urban planning sense — alongside mass transit and jobs. Instead, Downtown is getting the type of buildings that predominate in suburban areas. 
'It seems odd that as the city grows, the quality of Downtown stone construction is being replaced by sticks and plaster,” said Eric Owen Moss, director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture. “A bigger scale and larger conception is being replaced by a smaller scale and no conception, other than an easy to replicate economic model.'
The concern is shared by City Planning Director Michael LoGrande. While he acknowledges that projects like the Jia Apartments and the 280-unit Ava Little Tokyo are adding much-needed supply to a market that currently has an occupancy rate near 95%, he worries that future Angelenos will look back at today’s growth surge and lament that the developers didn’t aim higher. “
Photo: Holland Partners’ 1111 Wilshire, which opened this year, was originally entitled as a high-rise. It is one of several sites where some say the city should be encouraging more density. Gary Leonard

 

Los Angeles Downtown News:

"Is Downtown’s Low-Rise Building Spree Hurting the Community?

Ryan Vaillancourt. July 15, 2013

DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES - New housing projects are under construction all across Downtown Los Angeles. From Chinatown, where the 280-unit Jia Apartments are being built, to Eighth Street and Grand Avenue, where San Francisco’s Carmel Partners are erecting a 700-unit complex, hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested.

This activity is giving Downtown boosters reason to cheer: More housing brings more restaurants, bars, entertainment spots and retail.

However, some view the residential surge with caution. Certain architects, urban planners and developers worry that parking lot sites that could accommodate high-rises instead are being filled by five- to seven-story, wood-framed apartment complexes encased in plaster. 

Gone is a chance to create residential density in the part of the city where it isn’t largely opposed by community stakeholders, and where it makes the most urban planning sense — alongside mass transit and jobs. Instead, Downtown is getting the type of buildings that predominate in suburban areas. 

'It seems odd that as the city grows, the quality of Downtown stone construction is being replaced by sticks and plaster,” said Eric Owen Moss, director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture. “A bigger scale and larger conception is being replaced by a smaller scale and no conception, other than an easy to replicate economic model.'

The concern is shared by City Planning Director Michael LoGrande. While he acknowledges that projects like the Jia Apartments and the 280-unit Ava Little Tokyo are adding much-needed supply to a market that currently has an occupancy rate near 95%, he worries that future Angelenos will look back at today’s growth surge and lament that the developers didn’t aim higher. “

Photo: Holland Partners’ 1111 Wilshire, which opened this year, was originally entitled as a high-rise. It is one of several sites where some say the city should be encouraging more density. Gary Leonard

 

    GOOD:
"Vacancy to Vibrancy: How Pop-Ups Invigorated a San Francisco Neighborhood
Imron Bhatti. April 9, 2013
Despite big names moving into the neighborhood, San Francisco’s Mid-Market—and many neighborhoods across the country—is still full of vacant spaces. Millions of square feet are going unused. SquareFoot is putting that space to use, connecting entrepreneurs to underutilized space, and using pop-ups as a vehicle for neighborhood revitalization.
Pop-ups can be about more than high concept dining or a fresh Japanese retail concept: Short-term leases give residents a chance to invigorate the neighborhood and initiate new connections, spurring growth from the bottom-up. They give creative entrepreneurs a platform to prototype new ideas, unencumbered by the cost and red tape of long-term leases. Rapid experimentation can shift the assumptions we have about how we use our neighborhood spaces, helping us envision new possibilities while also creating a space for the local community to strengthen bulwarks against displacement by the rising tide of property values.”

Photo: Original Image via (cc) flickr user Randolph Gardner
 

    GOOD:

    "Vacancy to Vibrancy: How Pop-Ups Invigorated a San Francisco Neighborhood

    Imron Bhatti. April 9, 2013

    Despite big names moving into the neighborhood, San Francisco’s Mid-Market—and many neighborhoods across the country—is still full of vacant spaces. Millions of square feet are going unused. SquareFoot is putting that space to use, connecting entrepreneurs to underutilized space, and using pop-ups as a vehicle for neighborhood revitalization.

    Pop-ups can be about more than high concept dining or a fresh Japanese retail concept: Short-term leases give residents a chance to invigorate the neighborhood and initiate new connections, spurring growth from the bottom-up. They give creative entrepreneurs a platform to prototype new ideas, unencumbered by the cost and red tape of long-term leases. Rapid experimentation can shift the assumptions we have about how we use our neighborhood spaces, helping us envision new possibilities while also creating a space for the local community to strengthen bulwarks against displacement by the rising tide of property values.”

    Photo: Original Image via (cc) flickr user Randolph Gardner

     

    The New York Times: 
"Suburban Disequilibrium
By BECKY M. NICOLAIDES and ANDREW WIESE. April 6, 2013
A little pocket of Los Angeles County tucked into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains reflects a crucial facet of suburban life. There’s tiny, wealthy Bradbury, a town that prides itself on having one of the richest ZIP codes in Los Angeles, where a house is on the market for $68.8 million. A couple of miles to the east is Azusa. This modest suburb is more than two-thirds Latino, a town of working families whose incomes and home values are a sliver of the wealth nearby.
These towns represent extremes of social inequality, but in Los Angeles and other areas, they reflect a defining pattern of contemporary suburban life. Nationwide, rich and poor neighborhoods like these house a growing proportion of Americans, up to 31 percent compared with 15 percent in 1970, according to a recent study by Sean F. Reardon and Kendra Bischoff. Meanwhile, iconic middle-income suburbs are shrinking in numbers and prospects.
Today’s suburbs provide a map not just to the different worlds of the rich and the poor, which have always been with us, but to the increase in inequality between economic and social classes.”
Photo: Ron Chapple/Corbis

    The New York Times: 

    "Suburban Disequilibrium

    By BECKY M. NICOLAIDES and ANDREW WIESE. April 6, 2013

    A little pocket of Los Angeles County tucked into the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains reflects a crucial facet of suburban life. There’s tiny, wealthy Bradbury, a town that prides itself on having one of the richest ZIP codes in Los Angeles, where a house is on the market for $68.8 million. A couple of miles to the east is Azusa. This modest suburb is more than two-thirds Latino, a town of working families whose incomes and home values are a sliver of the wealth nearby.

    These towns represent extremes of social inequality, but in Los Angeles and other areas, they reflect a defining pattern of contemporary suburban life. Nationwide, rich and poor neighborhoods like these house a growing proportion of Americans, up to 31 percent compared with 15 percent in 1970, according to a recent study by Sean F. Reardon and Kendra Bischoff. Meanwhile, iconic middle-income suburbs are shrinking in numbers and prospects.

    Today’s suburbs provide a map not just to the different worlds of the rich and the poor, which have always been with us, but to the increase in inequality between economic and social classes.”

    Photo: Ron Chapple/Corbis

    The Architect’s Newspaper:
" ANYTHING NY CAN DO, LA CAN DO TOO
Sam Lubell asserts that LA’s next mayor must step up with ambitious design plans for the city.
Sam Lubell Feb 6, 2013
Having lived in New York and Los Angeles for more than six years apiece, I’ve learned that while they have plenty in common—they’re obviously both huge cities with a level of cultural dynamism and diversity that dwarfs most American metropolises—they’re also utterly different places.
In the design world perhaps the most important division is this: New York has a number of important, powerful, and effective design champions, among them mayor Michael Bloomberg, planning director Amanda Burden, and transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. The results have been, by all measures, impressive. The city has transformed itself through design, creating an elite new collection of parks, buildings, and master plans, including the High Line, Brooklyn Bridge Park, dedicated bike lanes, and iconic buildings by most of the world’s most celebrated architects, including Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, BIG, DS+R, and so many more.
Los Angeles is sorely lacking any such unifying galvanizers. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, while a stunningly effective promoter of transit, and leader of a recent triumph (despite heavy lobbying) on the Sixth Street Bridge, is still often subservient by legislative design to warring city council members and various agency heads. The planning director, Michael LoGrande, appears to have a rather tepid vision for long term, proactive planning. And few in the community seem to have taken the lead to fill the created vacuum. Instead of true design champions we have Eli Broad, who builds with little regard for public input or (despite hiring the best) even the input of his architects. Another is Metro, which has been enriched through recent measure R. But despite the valiant work of planning director Martha Welborne, the agency has shown little design savvy in its recent transit projects and transit oriented developments.
So who will step up for Los Angeles?”
Photo: Ben K. Adams/Flickr

    The Architect’s Newspaper:

    ANYTHING NY CAN DO, LA CAN DO TOO

    Sam Lubell asserts that LA’s next mayor must step up with ambitious design plans for the city.

    Sam Lubell Feb 6, 2013

    Having lived in New York and Los Angeles for more than six years apiece, I’ve learned that while they have plenty in common—they’re obviously both huge cities with a level of cultural dynamism and diversity that dwarfs most American metropolises—they’re also utterly different places.

    In the design world perhaps the most important division is this: New York has a number of important, powerful, and effective design champions, among them mayor Michael Bloomberg, planning director Amanda Burden, and transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. The results have been, by all measures, impressive. The city has transformed itself through design, creating an elite new collection of parks, buildings, and master plans, including the High Line, Brooklyn Bridge Park, dedicated bike lanes, and iconic buildings by most of the world’s most celebrated architects, including Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, BIG, DS+R, and so many more.

    Los Angeles is sorely lacking any such unifying galvanizers. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, while a stunningly effective promoter of transit, and leader of a recent triumph (despite heavy lobbying) on the Sixth Street Bridge, is still often subservient by legislative design to warring city council members and various agency heads. The planning director, Michael LoGrande, appears to have a rather tepid vision for long term, proactive planning. And few in the community seem to have taken the lead to fill the created vacuum. Instead of true design champions we have Eli Broad, who builds with little regard for public input or (despite hiring the best) even the input of his architects. Another is Metro, which has been enriched through recent measure R. But despite the valiant work of planning director Martha Welborne, the agency has shown little design savvy in its recent transit projects and transit oriented developments.

    So who will step up for Los Angeles?”

    Photo: Ben K. Adams/Flickr

    Architectural + Urban Research

    Mass Urban is a multidisciplinary design-research initiative concerned with contemporary cities and urbanism. Mass Urban was co-founded in April 2011 by David Lee and Cliff Lau.

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